Fishing lines: A valuable lesson in creative slighting

In my alter ego as a journalism tutor (yes, hard to believe, I know), I received the following as a suggestion for a possible course idea.

Creative writing assignment

Today we will experiment with a new form called the tandem story. Each person pairs off with the person on his or her immediate right. One writes the first paragraph of a short story. Your partner reads this, then adds another paragraph. The first person adds a third, and so on. The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached.

The result was:

"At first, Laurie couldn't agree which kind of tea she wanted. The camomile, which used to be her favourite for lazy evenings at home, reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked camomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off him too much. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much, her asthma started acting up again. So camomile was out of the question...

Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than the neuroses of an air-headed, asthmatic bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago. "A-S Harris to Geostation 17," he said into his transatlantic communicator. "Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far..." But before he could blast off, a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship's cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit...

He bumped his head and died almost immediately. But not before he felt one last pang of regret for physically brutalising the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4. "Congress passes law permanently abolishing war and space travel", Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited and bored her. She stared out of the window, dreaming of her youth-when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspapers to read, no television to distract her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her. "Why must one lose one's innocence to become a woman?" she pondered wistfully...

Little did she know but she had less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu'udrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who pushed a unilateral disarmament treaty through congress had left Earth a defenceless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race. Within two hours after the passage of the treaty, the Anu'udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough firepower to carry out their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret mobile submarine HQ on the ocean floor off Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion which vaporised Laurie and 85 million other Americans. He slammed his fist on the conference table. "l'm going to veto that treaty. Let's blow 'em out of the sky!"...

This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent chauvinistic, semi-literate adolescent.

Yeah? Well, you're a self- centred tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of valium...

YOU may wonder what this has to do with fishing. Not much, I have to confess, except it illustrates graphically the trouble I am having getting a couple of people to join the newly formed Angling Writers' Association.

We're talking fishing writers, for goodness sake, but you wouldn't believe the egos involved. Funnily enough, it's not the superstars. They've all rallied to the cause. It's a few delicate flowers who say: "I won't join because so-and-so has." One well-known writer who shall remain nameless (though not for much longer) won't come on board because six years ago, I poked gentle fun at him. Our initial invitation letters have uncovered vendettas and vitriol stretching back 20 years.

Fortunately, we are talking about fewer than a dozen out of more than 100 so far (and rising). I'm tempted to say, "If these people are so petty, we don't want them anyway." But as chairman, I have to be peacemaker, smooth out these long-simmering feuds and persuade them to join. Seating arrangements at the annual conference will need to be more carefully planned than a moon walk - or it will be the Anu'udrian attack all over again.

Many thanks to Richard Capps for the tale of Laurie and Carl.

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